Horgan scores with industry

So much has changed in the natural resources sector in the past 20 years.

Globalization and modernization has transformed the business, from the mills, the mines and the oil and gas patch to the boardrooms. Investment and production decisions are made based on global markets, not on local or even national demand. Technology has created so many efficiencies and made the work safer, but has put thousands out of work.

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The political landscape has also changed dramatically.

Two decades ago, the NDP government in Victoria were widely seen as incompetent managers, scaring away investors and driving forestry and the resource sector into the ground. Today, despite the best efforts of John Rustad and the B.C. Liberals to depict the NDP government in the same light, it just hasn't stuck, largely because it's not true.

Based on public comments made in industry and business publications, industry decision makers, many of whom are in Prince George this week for the B.C. Natural Resources Forum, have found John Horgan's government to be supportive and accommodating. Horgan kept Site C alive and has stood by LNG development, including the Coastal GasLink pipeline. He hasn't raised industry taxes or created onerous new regulations, environmental or otherwise.

As a result, he seems to have earned a grudging respect from industry leaders, who were all terribly nervous in the spring of 2017, when Horgan forged a political alliance with Andrew Weaver's Greens to form government.

Turns out the dog does wag the tail, at least in this government coalition. Horgan agreed to Weaver's demand to the electoral reform referendum in 2018 but otherwise has governed with blatant disregard for what the Greens want, especially on the natural resource development file.

For Horgan, the referendum was a win-win scenario. If electoral reform would have passed, the B.C. Liberals would have been exiled into opposition for a generation, if not permanently. It failed, but Weaver was the one who wore it.

Horgan also couldn't lose on the legal battle over the TransMountain pipeline. If the province had won its appeal to control what flowed through the expanded pipeline, he would have said he was standing up for B.C., no different than Christy Clark did with her five conditions when she was premier. With the court going against him, Horgan can say he did everything he could legally to halt the project and repeat how he will do everything in his political power to hold the federal government (the owner of the pipeline) accountable during construction and operation, all while taking full credit for B.C.'s bustling economy and low unemployment heading into next spring's provincial election.

As for the terrible downturn in forestry, particularly last year, Horgan gets to spread the blame on 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, global market forces, forest fires and don't forget 15 years of Liberal management.

So much has changed in the past two decades but it's the same as it ever was when it comes to the transactional world politics and business, where results are always more important than ideology. In this case, resource sector leaders and an NDP government have found it smart to work together on common goals, ignore the rest and stay in their own respective lanes.

The Liberals can cry foul all they like while Horgan smiles and eats their lunch.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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